The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce successfully represented our member's and the region's interests during the 2016 Legislative Session.
With three full time registered lobbyists and the support of the entire staff team, our governmental affairs staff left a solid impression with our regional delegation. In 2016 the Chamber implemented a strategy of communication, engagement and collaboration.
K-12 Education Funding – The Chamber joined the Urban Crescent Coalition in 2015 to support increased funding for K-12 education. Results; the two year state budget invests over $900 million in new funding for K-12 education.
Higher Education Research&Development – The two year budget provides $40 million in General Funds and $57.5 million in bonds for research and economic development efforts. The Chamber was an active member of the Go Virginia Coalition that supported the economic development funding designed to incentivize regional partnerships between localities..
New Economy Workforce Credential Grant Program - $12.5 million in funding is provided over the biennium for a new workforce credential or certification program.
Virginia International Trade Authority – The Chamber supported the establishment of the Virginia International Trade Authority to promote international trade in the Commonwealth by coordinating private and public efforts to stimulate the international trade segment of the state’s economy and marketing Virginia made products and services. Result; Virginia International Trade Authority established.
GO Virginia – The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce is an active member of a coalition of business interests supporting GO Virginia. The Virginia Initiative for Growth and Opportunity in each region, known as GO Virginia, provides a new framework to strengthen the economy through enhanced collaboration by business, education and local government. Result; $35 million is designated in the Commonwealth’s budget establishing the GO Virginia initiative.
Research and Development Tax Credit
The Hampton Roads Chamber was an active member in a coalition of business interests supporting the Commonwealth’s Research and Development Tax Credit. The legislation increased the statutory cap of Virginia’s refundable R&D tax credit for small, innovative business from $6 million to $7 million, increased the eligible research expenses for smaller business, increased the enhanced incentives for smaller businesses that conduct research in conjunction with a Virginia university and it extends the sunset to 2026. Result; the R&D tax credit bill was approved by the Virginia General Assembly.
The Port of Virginia – The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce supported the Port of Virginia’s request for a $350 million port infrastructure project. The funds were requested for the conversion and optimization of Norfolk International Terminal, a 567 acre facility in Norfolk. The project includes a new 26 lane motor carrier gate, rail improvements to increase access and velocity of cargo, and the conversion of the South Yard to an automated rail mounted Gantry crane system.
These investments increase NIT’s capacity by 46.3% with the potential to generate an additional $100 million in total revenue and $10 million in annual profits, $16 billion in Virginia spending and $462 million in state and local taxes and potential to support an additional 120,000 jobs statewide. Result; $350 million in bond funding was approved for the Port of Virginia.
The Hampton Roads Chamber supported a compromise measure that directed the Workers Compensation Commission to establish fee schedules for the payment of medical services under the state’s Workers Compensation program. The Commonwealth of Virginia has some of the lowest Workers Comp rates in the United States. Result; the measure passed the General Assembly.
The Chamber supported a measure that changed the definition of a “large employer” for purposes of a group health plan or health coverage plan from an employer who employed an average of more than 50 employees to an employer who employed more than 100 employees during the preceding calendar year. This change puts Virginia in sync with federal regulations. Result; the measure was approved.
Military and Veterans Affairs – The Chamber supported legislation that extended from six months to twelve months the temporary license, certification or permit issued by any regulatory board. Result; the bill passed.
Veterans Care Centers – The Chamber supported a bill that authorizes the Virginia Public Building Authority to issue bonds in the amount of $29.3 million plus financing costs. One of the Veterans Care Centers will be constructed in Virginia Beach.
Cash Proffer Reform – Legislation that emerged from the 2016 session of the Virginia General Assembly provides that no locality shall request or accept any unreasonable proffer in connection with a rezoning or a proffer condition amendment as a condition of approval of a new residential development or new residential use.
Contracting – The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation that would prohibit local government from establishing provisions related to procurement of goods, professional services or construction that would require a wage floor or any other employee benefit or compensation above what is required by state or federal law.
Data Centers – The Chamber supported the extension of the sunset date from June 30, 2020 to June 30, 2023 for a sales and use tax exemption for certain data centers. A high percentage of the capital investment occurring in the Commonwealth is in Data Centers.
Coal Tax Credits – The Chamber supported the coal employment and production incentive tax credit. Hampton Roads has two railroads operating coal port facilities. The bill limits the aggregate amount of credits that may be allocated or claimed for the coal employment and production tax credit to $7.5 million.
Legislation OPPOSED by the Chamber
Tourism – Virginia’s tourism industry generates $22.4 billion in visitor spending annually. The total economic contribution of Virginia’s tourism industry is over $30.1 billion per year, supporting 289,300 jobs and providing $7.9 billion in wages and benefits. The Chamber OPPOSED all bills that would shorten the tourism season saving more than $369 million in economic impact. Bills that would allow for a uniform start to public schools before Labor Day were defeated.
Healthcare – The Chamber OPPOSED bills that would have eliminated the Commonwealth’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) program. The Chamber favors reform of the program but is opposed to repeal of COPN. The Chamber supports Virginia’s COPN program as an important component of Virginia’s healthcare policy.
Punitive Damages – The Chamber OPPOSED legislation that would have raised the caps on punitive damages from $350,000 to $500,000. The bill was defeated.
Air BNB – The Chamber urged the legislature to send all “Air BNB” legislation to the Virginia Housing Commission for study. A number of concerns emerged from our local hospitality community regarding the proposed legislation. The bill was referred for study directing the Housing Commission to convene a workgroup to further study issues presented in the bill and make recommendations for consideration by the 2017 session of the Virginia General Assembly.
Paid Sick Leave – The Chamber OPPOSED legislation that would have required private employers with 25 or more full-time employee equivalents to provide those employees working at least 18 hours per week with paid sick leave benefits. Result; the measure was defeated.
Minimum Wage – The Chamber OPPOSED bills that would have created a local alternative minimum wage. Result; the bill was defeated.
Family and Medical Insurance Leave – The Chamber OPPOSED legislation that would have provided for a family and medical leave insurance benefit payment for each month employees are engaged in qualified care giving, not to exceed 60 days per year. Result; this bill was left in House Commerce and Labor.
Key Legislative Issue Carried Over to 2017
No meaningful legislation emerged from the 2016 Virginia General Assembly session that would impact revenue for regional transportation funding.
While HB 2313 passed in 2013 and this legislation provided a regional sales tax on the wholesale price of gas, no “floor price” was established. With the falling price of regional gas, the tax is yielding approximately $23 million annually versus the $73 million expected.
Additional transportation revenues are needed to address our region’s transportation projects in a timely manner.